How Spud Guns Work

The HowStuffWorks spud gun, with spud.

At the touch of a button, an explosion hurls a projectile hundreds of feet at close to 400 miles (643.7 km) per hour, obliterating a target [source: Burnt Latke]. But the explosion isn't from a cannon or a rocket launcher. It's from a spud gun.

­Spud guns come in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations. Depending on the size of the barrel, they can fire a number of common objects, including potatoes, tennis balls and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) rockets. The only requirement is that the size of the projectile fits the size of the barrel. "The projectiles," says Joel Suprise, owner of The Spudgun Technology Center, "are pretty much limited to one's imagination."


We interviewed Suprise to get a better look at how spud guns work and what they can do. In this article, we will examine the science behind spud guns' ability to fire potatoes over long distances. We will also discuss other uses for spud guns as well as safety and legal issues.